Top 10 Recruiting FAQs
The AJGA’s College Golf Advisors have put together a list of Top 10 Recruiting FAQs to assist junior golfers and parents as they navigate junior golf and manage college placement. Keep in mind NCAA bylaws are subject to change and at all times, prospective student-athletes and their parents are encouraged to consult ncaa.org, eligibilitycenter.org and usga.org for all recruiting and amateurism rules questions.
To learn more about these and other recruiting topics, view the Junior Golf Scoreboard's "Going to College" articles at juniorgolfscoreboard.com.
1. What are the most frequently asked questions concerning scholarships?
Understanding how scholarships are awarded can be very helpful throughout the recruiting process. Each coach has to work within the NCAA scholarship limit for their particular sport, division, and gender.
Also, keep in mind golf is an “equivalency” sport where scholarships can, and generally are, divided among players. For example, one full scholarship can be split equally among two different players, each receiving a 50 percent equivalency. This raises a number of relevant questions:
Does it make a difference if the student has in-state or out-of-state residency?
Do all NCAA Division I and II golf programs award the maximum allowable scholarships annually?
Can coaches award multi-year scholarships in the recruiting process?
Do coaches award scholarships based on a percentage or on the actual dollar value?
Do nonathletic scholarships count against a team’s NCAA limit?
Are full scholarships common in the sport of golf?
In the past several years, players, parents and coaches have all witnessed a number of significant changes with how the recruiting process works throughout the world of junior golf. The most obvious change has been the timing of when some players commit to schools. Many Division I programs have at least one, if not all, of their commitments before the prospects complete their junior year in high school. While this is not true for all recruits or college golf programs, it has become common enough to explore further.
How does this happen so early?
NCAA rules allow prospects to visit campuses at their own expense anytime. These campus tours are referred to as unofficial visits and can occur even when the prospect is very young (eighth, ninth and 10th grades for example). The main benefit to a prospect making an unofficial visit is the opportunity to gather more information about a school and begin formulating ideas as to what they like or dislike in a college campus. Other than during Dead Periods, NCAA rules now allow Division I coaches to meet with prospects on campus beginning September 1 of the prospect's junior year of high school. Official visits to Division I schools, typically offered to highly-recruited prospects, can now occur during a prospect's junior or senior year of high school. These face-to-face meetings are a great way to learn more about the school and golf program, the coach, their interest in recruiting you and how the recruiting process will unfold. Keep in mind there are several “Dead Periods” in college golf recruiting where Division I coaches cannot meet with prospects or their parents during either official or unofficial campus visits. (See ncaa.org for more detail on these restrictions.)
Beginning September 1 of their junior year, recruits may receive letters and emails from coaches interested in recruiting them. This is the first opportunity for Division I coaches to initiate any contact with a prospect other than sending a one-time generic athletic questionnaire. Phone calls and text messages from Division I coaches can also occur at the coach’s discretion beginning September 1 of the prospect’s junior year of high school. Prospects and their parents, however, are allowed to call coaches anytime. This is a key step in making an initial introduction to a coach. Although Division I coaches cannot initiate or return calls prior to September 1 of the prospect’s junior year, prospects can call and introduce themselves as potential recruits, even as early as their freshmen or sophomore years in high school. Always do your homework first before calling a coach to make sure the prospect has the necessary academic and athletic qualifications to attend the school. Is this school and golf program a good fit?
Every prospect should ultimately visit the school(s) they are interested in attending. This cannot be over emphasized considering what they learn during these visits will influence and affect where they decide to spend four years of their life. Some scholarship and/or roster position offers are made during these early unofficial visits but only in a verbal manner. Official National Letter of Intent signings can only occur either in mid-November or later after mid-April during the prospect’s senior year in high school. Always stay proactive by arranging unofficial visits, especially if letters, emails, calls or text messages are being received from the school during the prospect’s junior year and the prospect has interest in that school.
There is no prohibition against college coaches calling non-family members early on in the recruiting process to gather information relative to a prospect’s golf and academic resume and also to express interest in recruiting the prospect. In these cases, the college coach may encourage these people to have the prospect or the prospect’s parents call to arrange an unofficial campus visit. In recent years, this has become a more common practice with some coaches.
A word of caution for anyone who is interested in making an early verbal commitment: THINGS CAN CHANGE! While you may think a school is right for you, what will happen if the coach leaves or your golf game changes significantly to a different level? Be slow, deliberate and careful to make the right decision. Once you give the coach your word, make sure it is final. This is what you should expect from the coach as well.
Finding the right college to attend can be an extremely long and complicated process. As student-athletes, junior golfers must identify a school that provides the proper environment for them to succeed both academically and athletically. Knowing when to start this process can ultimately determine whether or not the school they attend is a good fit.
Junior golfers have the benefit of traveling, both regionally and nationally, to tournaments throughout the summer and occasionally during the academic year. In many instances, junior golf tournaments are staged in cities where college campuses are located. In these cases, it is very important that the student and his or her parents take time during their trip to visit local campuses. If it is on or after September 1 of your junior year of high school and you are interested in Division I schools, contact the coach in advance to see if they are available for a brief introductory meeting. If the meeting is on or after September 1 of a prospect’s junior year and the meeting does not occur during a dead period, NCAA rules allow Division I coaches to speak with a prospect and their parents during an unofficial visit to campus (including at the team’s practice facilities). The prospect cannot be registered for or participating in a competition at the time of the meeting. If you call a Division I coach and leave a message, due to NCAA rules you will not receive a return call prior to September 1 of your junior year in high school. When you connect with the coach on the telephone, introduce yourself and let them know you would like to visit their campus one day before or after your tournament. The more campuses you visit, the better your understanding will be with regard to campus size, academic offerings, athletic facilities, student population and proximity to home. Keep in mind, highly-recruited prospects may be invited to an official visit (one financed by the school). These visits can occur as early as a prospect’s junior year of high school.
Oftentimes students will decide not to visit a campus because they have no interest in ever attending that school. However, these visits can be productive in helping college prospects better understand exactly what they are searching for in a college. Students can learn something important each time they visit a college campus.
I recommend that families begin visiting campuses as early as ninth grade and no later than tenth grade. These visits can motivate a young person to work harder in the classroom and on the golf course in hopes of someday participating as a collegiate student-athlete. It is also a good idea to attend several college golf tournaments at this time to learn more about each team, how the coach interacts with the players during the competition, what the team chemistry is like and to gauge how talented the players are at various levels in the NCAA. This will help prospects determine if their golf game is at the right level to play for one of their “dream” schools.
Another important step in this process that needs to start early is researching colleges. Junior golfers, along with their parents, should begin to collect as much information as possible on all the colleges of interest. Websites collegegolf.com and golfstat.com are excellent to use throughout this entire process. Again, it is important that the initial research begin as early as ninth grade but no later than tenth grade. High school students should solicit the assistance of college counselors to identify and target potential college fits. If the student’s high school has someone specifically-designated to assist with this search, they should schedule a meeting with that person early during tenth grade to get a head start on the college placement process. Many people wait until late in their junior year or even during their senior year to think about where they want to attend college. As a student-athlete, you cannot wait this long if you expect to target potential “best fit” schools that still have roster positions available. Sometimes rosters fill up a year in advance leaving last-minute recruits without an opportunity to play for the team of their choice.
Everyone knows how competitive the college recruiting environment has become. Make sure you have done your homework and visited colleges before being recruited in your junior year. It’s never too early to start thinking about where you want to attend college and what to look for in the search.
Most college coaches spend at least 25-30 days per year on the road recruiting. Typically, they will attend 10-12 junior tournaments to watch talented young players practice and compete. This is a perfect forum to evaluate talent.
When you see coaches at a junior tournament, they are generally walking up and down the practice tee or on the golf course following a group as they play. In either case, the coach may be watching for things the player would never imagine.
On the range, coaches are watching juniors closely to evaluate technique and general athleticism. They also want to see how each player practices. Is the player serious, disciplined, and focused or is practice time used to socialize? Does the player pick specific targets, practice using a pre-shot routine and use alignment aids during practice, or do they just hit balls rapidly with no purpose?
On the golf course, coaches are interested to see how players react to a tough situation. A bad break, an outside distraction, a difficult hole location (bordering on unfair), or a string of lip outs would set the stage perfectly. Coaches want to know that young players can deal with adversity if they are planning to offer a scholarship or roster position. The ability to deal with adversity sets them apart from other players and shows their high level of maturity. They are also interested to see what personality traits players display. Do they walk alone or as a group, socializing with the other players walking down the fairway? Either can be fine depending on what the coach prefers. Always be yourself in these situations.
Another real world example of how a coach evaluates talent has to do with demeanor and presentation. Do players look and act like young professionals? Are their shoes, golf bag and clubs clean and in good order? These issues matter to all coaches. No one wants to invest time or money in a player who looks sloppy and acts unprofessional.
Finally, all coaches are interested to see how players interact with their parents at tournaments. Is it a pleasant and supportive relationship, or are parents and children constantly arguing back and forth, even during the tournament rounds? Coaches who sense hostility between the player and their parents will typically shy away from recruiting the player.
In the final analysis, score is not the only way to evaluate talent. If this were the case, then coaches would stay at home and recruit via online results. Pay attention to how you present yourself and how you act at tournaments.
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The AJGA is the best place for junior golfers to be discovered by college coaches, plain and simple. But it is not the only place. The AJGA’s Performance Based Entry System (PBE) recognizes tournaments based on historical strength of field and awards AJGA “status” (Performance Stars and Fully Exempt status) based on a player’s finish. The system has worked well so far and continues to undergo improvements and modifications on an annual basis.
All prospects need to be keenly aware of how the PBE system works in order to plan their seasonal tournament schedules. The AJGA website includes resources that provide details about earning PBE status. Using these resources will help reveal how many quality non-AJGA events and tours are available to help you reach your long-term tournament goals.
Additionally, highly-ranked players may also elect to participate in amateur or professional qualifiers to further demonstrate their abilities to college coaches. Examples would include the U.S. Open Local Qualifier, their respective State Amateur Championship, U.S. Amateur Qualifier, city amateur events, etc. Note, these and other similar amateur tournaments, do not award AJGA PBE stars.
During the fall, winter, and spring months, numerous tours and individual tournaments offer players an opportunity to earn AJGA PBE status. The PBE also includes many non-AJGA summer events. Each State Junior Championship is recognized as well as several national qualifying events such as the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships, Junior PGA Championship, Optimist International Junior Golf Championships, IMG Junior World Golf Championships and Trusted Choice “Big I” National Championship. See ajga.org for a complete listing of PBE events.
Players can also earn status at qualifiers conducted by the AJGA each week of an Open or ACDS Junior All-Star event conducted during the summer. Along the way, players will build their competitive golf resumes and begin to gain exposure among college coaches. Remember that all tournaments matter to coaches and most tournaments, based on PBE, can help you gain AJGA status.
My suggestion for all prospects is to use the AJGA PBE as a road map to help develop a tournament schedule that will ultimately create exposure among several, quality college programs. The AJGA remains an excellent venue for you to achieve your college placement goals.
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For college-bound student athletes, the recruiting process can be confusing, stressful and extremely time consuming. Most young people who face this challenging time in their life will look to their parents for sound advice and direction. What exactly should parents do and not do throughout this complex process?
Help your child prepare for a successful collegiate career by reflecting on your college experiences.
Speak with parents of children currently attending college to learn more about their respective school and coach.
Prepare a list of questions for your child to ask college coaches during campus visits.
Plan as many unofficial visits as possible during your child’s sophomore and junior years (or earlier) in order to learn more about college campuses.
Keep your child focused on academic excellence throughout high school including SAT and ACT prep classes.
Remain positive and optimistic throughout the entire recruiting process, constantly reminding your child that you will support their final decision regardless of where they select to attend college.
Remember golf is a marathon!
Resist the temptation to tell your child where they should attend college and play golf without asking their opinion.
College questionnaires should be completed by the student athletes, not the parents.
When coaches call your home, they are most interested in speaking with your child – stay off the call unless you are asked to listen in by the coach.
During junior golf tournaments (and especially in the presence of college coaches), refrain from showing excessive emotion after each shot your child plays - remain as calm as possible.
Pressuring your child to play better in order to get recruited is unhealthy and in many cases, can be counterproductive.
Parental calls and/or emails to college coaches should be kept to a minimum during the recruiting process.
Overstating your child’s true athletic ability can result in a poor long-term decision and a bad college fit for both your child and the coach.
Young people need their parents to provide guidance and support at many times during their life, including the college recruiting process. This is generally a stressful time for both the child and the parent as change is on the horizon. Throughout this process, parents need to encourage their children to: (a) think and speak for themselves, (b) do as much research as possible, and (c) ultimately make a personal decision that they are comfortable with.
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The most significant challenge a student-athlete faces in college is how to manage their time effectively. Considering the amount of time that a round of golf requires and the fact that college golf lasts the entire academic year (September-May), college golfers must manage their time effectively if they expect to succeed in the classroom and on the golf course.
In season, the NCAA allows Division I coaches to mandate a 20-hour weekly practice schedule. This schedule includes golf practice, workouts, meetings, qualifying rounds and tournament competition. Most golf programs are in season during September and October in the fall and during February, March, April and May in the spring.
Typically Division I coaches will schedule their off season during November, December and January. During these months, coaches are permitted to schedule limited practices and workout sessions with their team members. If the school is located in a warm climate, players will play and practice on their own time.
Most junior golfers have trouble understanding just how busy they will be as collegiate student-athletes. Freshmen typically struggle with having to balance school, practice, travel and their social lives all in a seven-day week.
Remember the importance of keeping your body and mind fit for competition. In order to decrease missed class days, many competitions now include a practice round, 36 holes on day one of the competition and then a final 18 holes on day two. The value of staying fit mentally, physically, nutritionally and emotionally is imperative. Start preparing and conditioning early.
In season, college golfers have little free time to spend with friends and to participate in campus activities. The more organized they are in handling their academic responsibilities, the more free time they will ultimately have to socialize and relax. Players on a golf team who are fortunate enough to qualify for the traveling team and participate in tournaments on a regular basis face the greatest challenge staying current in the classroom. It is important for these players to meet regularly with their teachers and tutors in an attempt to get ahead with their class work before traveling to tournaments.
If a junior golfer can learn to manage time effectively before entering college, chances of success increase dramatically. Coaches are very interested in recruiting student-athletes who understand this concept and can handle the transition from high school to college without any problem.
Your time is your most valuable resource. Learn to manage it effectively!
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Student-athletes are students first and athletes second. Even in nationally competitive programs where there is a lot of pressure to win championships, this is still the case. With NCAA initial-eligibility requirements becoming increasingly difficult and new bylaws based on college graduation rates now in place, coaches have to identify junior golfers who can not only help their teams win golf tournaments, but can also handle their academic responsibilities. Academics do matter to coaches in the recruiting process!
NCAA initial-eligibility requirements for Division I prospects stipulate that a graduate must pass 16 academic core courses in high school and have an SAT or ACT score and GPA that meets the Eligibility Center’s sliding scale before they can compete as a freshman in college. The higher the grade point average is, the lower the test score can be to meet these requirements (and vice versa). Student-athletes who aspire to participate in athletics at either the Division I or II collegiate levels need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center by the end of their sophomore year in high school. They should also review the NCAA’s Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete for more information on this topic.
College golfers miss a tremendous amount of class time due to participation in tournaments. Most tournaments require student-athletes to miss two days of class time. In an average semester, teams will compete in at least four to five events resulting in nearly 10 days of class absences for a player that makes each trip. These absences can be extremely stressful for students who are not prepared to excel academically or to manage their limited time.
The NCAA has requirements for college graduation rates. Coaches and their teams are now penalized if their graduation rates fall below acceptable NCAA standards. This shortcoming can lead to coaches losing their jobs. As a result, coaches are more focused on recruiting top students to their institutions than ever. While it has always been important to identify and recruit student-athletes committed to earning four-year degrees in college, coaches work harder now to make sure they are recruiting players focused on graduating before they leave school.
In the final analysis, coaches really do care about academics when recruiting junior golfers. As a result, student-athletes need to understand that they have to balance their time and energy between the sport they love to play and their academic responsibilities. This balance will help their overall marketability when it comes to recruitment.
And remember, school should always come first!
An unofficial visit to a college campus by a prospective student-athlete is a visit made at the prospect’s own expense. There is no limit as to the number of unofficial visits a prospect can make or to how early in the recruitment process the visits can be made. As long as the visit is on or after September 1 of a prospect’s junior year of high school and it is not during a Dead Period, Division I coaches can meet on campus with the prospect or their parents and provide complimentary admission to an athletic contest during an unofficial visit. In addition, schools may provide complimentary admissions to an on-campus athletics event during an unofficial visit. Official visits for Division I programs can now occur during a prospect’s junior or senior year of high school. These visits are financed by the school and are limited to no more than five schools. Official visits are typically offered to highly-recruited players only.
During these campus visits, Division I coaches are permitted to meet and speak with prospects and their parents on or after September 1 of the prospect’s junior year of high school. This provision in the NCAA Rules allows prospects to meet face to face with Division I coaches to learn more about various schools and golf programs. In cases where the prospect is a highly-recruited athlete, the coach may present the prospect with a scholarship offer. This has led to more “early commitments” over the past several years.
Junior golfers should always look for schools to visit near golf tournaments they are participating in. If this advice is followed in ninth and tenth grades, prospects will be better prepared to accurately target “good fits” as the college selection process intensifies in eleventh and twelfth grades. Most young people know very little about how colleges differ and, until they visit the campuses, are unable to select the right school to attend. Unofficial visits also provide an opportunity for prospects and coaches to have a face-to-face discussion early on in the recruitment process. Questions should be asked during the visit in order to help with the overall selection process.
To set up an unofficial visit, prospects should email the coach with the request first and then follow up with a phone call. Be specific on what you would like to do during the unofficial visit (see facilities, talk with the coach, meet some of the players, tour the campus, etc.) and provide open dates and times. In some cases, the coach and team may be traveling to a competition. If the coach is unavailable, ask for a contact person in either the Athletic or Admissions Departments that could provide the campus tour. If the coach is accommodating you will know they are sincerely interested in recruiting you. The reverse applies as well. Keep in mind Division I coaches cannot reply to emails, letters, phone calls or text messages prior to September 1 of a prospect’s junior year in high school. They can send a generic athletic questionnaire and camp information to a prospect earlier in the recruiting process.
Plan your tournament schedule to include trips relatively close to campuses you are interested in visiting. This is an economical and practical way to accomplish multiple tasks during the season. The experience will tremendously assist in the college selection process as well.
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Everyone who has played the game of golf knows how challenging the sport really is and that consistency is always something to strive for. Furthermore, no one is exempt from having a bad round, especially in competition. Even the greatest players in the world struggle at times and shoot scores in the 80s.
So why is it then that some junior golfers who post high first round scores have a tendency to withdraw from tournaments? Other than being embarrassed for shooting a high score, one might think the player is concerned with how this poor performance will affect their national ranking and eventually their ability to be recruited by college coaches. Keep in mind that there will always be “justified withdrawals” in cases where the player is injured or has a family emergency. The AJGA and other tournament organizations have systems in place to protect a player who withdraws for a legitimate reason. Most would agree that playing poorly is not a legitimate reason and that players should finish tournaments they start.
College coaches pay particularly close attention to those who tend to “manage rankings” by withdrawing from tournaments or “no-carding” after bad rounds. They frown upon these actions and would be less likely to recruit those players. Coaches know that their players will struggle at times in college events and therefore will expect them to have what it takes to manage their games and their emotions in an attempt to shoot the lowest score they possibly can on a given day. Quitting or withdrawing is not an option at the collegiate level.
Instead of withdrawing, juniors who post high first round scores should realize that they have an opportunity to make a great comeback in subsequent rounds. I remember initially recruiting one of the best players I coached in college immediately after he shot 85-67 in the first two rounds of a junior tournament in Florida. I had never watched him play before, but once I saw his ability to bounce back from a very poor first round, I knew he was a player I should consider recruiting. He turned out to be an excellent Division I player and someone who demonstrated a lot of character on the golf course, especially in tough situations. He never quit or gave up after a bad start to a round or a tournament.
Parents should always encourage their children to do the best they can and to never let one bad round cause them to worry about how it will affect rankings or college recruiting. Part of the learning process for junior players is to know how to come back after shooting a high score or to deal with adversity during a round. Unless a player is sick, injured, or has an emergency to deal with, they need to complete the tournament.
And always remember, coaches will be impressed with the player who demonstrates they can bounce back after a bad round!